Keeper of the Dawn - Dianna Gunn

When I first picked this up at WorldCon, the blurb and the good-looking cover were enough to make me think it would be my kind of thing, despite being a) a novella, which can be frustrating at times, and b) Young Adult, with all the possibilities for angst and being TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) that can include.

 

Anyway, our protagonist Lai is a teenager who has been training all her life to follow in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother and become a priestess of the goddesses worshipped by her desert tribe. In order to achieve this, she has to go through various rituals, some martial in nature, and while she has significant chunks of thinking 'why can't everyone get to be a priestess?' that doesn't stop her from killing someone in her quest to get that position for herself. 

 

Unfortunately for Lai, the goddesses clearly have other plans for her and after she's unsuccessful, she runs off to a faraway country in order to turn her fighting skills into cash. While there, working for a particular insalubrious merchant, Lai hears rumours of another bunch of folks who worship the same goddesses her tribe did and decides to join them. This looks like a prime opportunity for her to find her place in the world, a.k.a. Plan B. 

 

In itself, the whole set-up of this novella is fairly robust but there are a couple of things that niggled with me: firstly, I didn't really care about any of the characters, including Lai, which makes the whole novella a bit of a hard sell. I think that if it had been a novel, I probably wouldn't have finished it. There's also a bit of a pacing issue towards the end: at one point Lai travels for months to get to where the eponymous Keepers of the Dawn are based, then has to go back home to fulfil a prophecy, only for her return journey to be summed up in a single sentence worrying about the reception she'll get from the girlfriend she left behind. 

 

So, in summary, a pleasant enough tale but not earth-shaking and one I'm fairly glad I picked up for free.